Thanks to a recent glitch on the TSA website, it was safe to bring medical marijuana on a flight if you had a prescription. Although the government agency commented that it was a “glitch” on their site, the mistake inspired a survey on how many people fly with cannabis.
It turns out, about 50 percent of respondents have traveled with marijuana within the United States, but it seems to be less common for international travel, dropping to just over 10 percent of travelers. A spokesperson for the travel site who conducted the survey said about 5000 people responded, and their readers tend to be between 18-35 years of age.
Officials have previously stated that TSA agents are mainly looking for things would endanger the lives of passengers. Their website states, “TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. In the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”
But even in states where cannabis is legal, traveling with it is still not allowed.
“We have an administrative policy in place that prohibits the possession of any form of marijuana on airport property,” said Heath Montgomery, spokesman for Denver international airport. “There’s no distinction for us between medical marijuana or otherwise. Our policy prohibits the possession, display, or use of any form of marijuana.”
This creates a legal grey area. While TSA appears to be referring anyone caught with marijuana at the airport to local authorities, those authorities in states with legal cannabis would have a difficult time prosecuting marijuana possession charges.
“To be clear, it’s not a criminal offense,” said Montgomery. “But there is an administrative citation that the airport has the authority to write to somebody for violating our rules.”
For medical marijuana patients and individuals who prefer to bring their own, there are some steps one can take to minimize their risk of being caught. While the TSA may not be interested in cannabis, United States Customs and Border Protection (CPB) has a mandate to curb drug trafficking, but their focus is on other drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly recently commented in a TV interview that, “marijuana is not a factor in the drug war,” but Kelly, just days later, called marijuana a gateway drug and said, “Its use and possession is against federal law and until that law is changed by the United States Congress we at DHS along with the rest of the federal government are sworn to uphold all the laws that are on the books.” He also mentioned that, “ICE will continue to use marijuana possession, distribution and convictions as essential elements” to deport illegal immigrants, which is in line with the Trump Administration’s vow to accelerate deportations.